Passport to Nature: 21 Sanctuaries, 5 months, and 1 Mother-Daughter Duo
Erica Tworog-Dube and her then three-year-old daughter, Ariana, had a mission: to complete the Passport to Nature booklet, a fun way to explore 21 of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries. They not only succeeded, but did so in an impressive five months. Read their story below and get Erica's Lessons Learned and Traveling Tips.
My daughter loves nature, animals, hiking, and exploring new places. She and I have always enjoyed doing day trips, and the Passport to Nature program provided the perfect guidance for new places to check out. Prior to starting, we had been relatively frequent visitors to Broadmoor in Natick, Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, and Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester. But as much as we loved these places, we were excited to expand our exploration.
If Ariana and I found ourselves with nice weather, we’d simply open our Passport and choose a destination. The Passport also inspired family adventures, such as kayaking the Ipswich River in Topsfield for Mother’s Day or taking a ferry to the Vineyard to visit Felix Neck.
Our highlights were many, but a particularly memorable one was observing a family of beavers that went fearlessly about their work mere feet from where we stood. There was also the time that we rounded a bend at Arcadia and found ourselves face-to-face with a red-tailed hawk. And we were in disbelief at the number of tadpoles we saw in a vernal pool at Moose Hill.
Ariana narrowed her favorite experiences down to two, no, actually three. The first was witnessing the births of two lambs at Drumlin Farm (she still talks about it a year later). Next was visiting Wellfleet Bay during peak horseshoe crab mating season. We were rewarded with an incredible glimpse into these prehistoric creatures’ “personalities” as they curiously approached us and followed us along the shoreline.
Along with the wildlife, we also observed a great deal of beautiful plant life. Ariana loves her visits to Broadmoor because there’s a tiny pine tree whose growth she’s been excitedly tracking for years. But it was watching Ariana’s attempt to wrap her arms around several massive trees that accentuated the kind of natural history that Mass Audubon is helping to preserve.
Ultimately, however, the observation that left the strongest impression was of the biodiversity represented across the entire network of sanctuaries. Exploring a cross-section of Mass Audubon’s acres of mountains, meadows, wetlands, woodlands, ponds, and coastline, along with all of the animals and plants protected within, left us in complete awe of the scope and significance of the organization’s work.
Conservation has always been extremely important to my husband and me, and we’ve found that Ariana instinctively shares that same passion. The Passport experience helped to personalize what we’re seeking to preserve and reinforced why we put so much emphasis on trying to be good “Earth helpers” by recycling, reducing electricity usage, etc. Having the opportunity to complete the Passport with my enthusiastic, innocent, intrinsically curious daughter by my side underscored how crucial these environmental preservation efforts are for future generations.